Reading list: It is rocket science

7 books on space

The World Today Published 12 February 2016 Updated 25 January 2019 1 minute READ

The Right Stuff
Tom Wolfe (Vintage, £10.99)
Wolfe interviewed test pilots, astronauts and their wives for this novel about the pilots engaged in US post-war experiments with rocket-powered aircraft as well as documenting the stories of the first Project Mercury astronauts selected for the NASA space programme.

Packing for Mars
Mary Roach (Oneworld Publications, £8.99)
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh veg, privacy, beer. To prepare astronauts for these privations, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations, and as Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth.

Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon
Buzz Aldrin (Bloomsbury, £10)
The second of two autobiographical books written by Buzz Aldrin, former Apollo 11 astronaut, and a first-hand account of landing on the Moon – a landing that came within seconds of failure – and a description of Aldrin’s personal trials, and eventual triumphs, on Earth.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams (Pan, £8.99)
Perhaps the most famous set of science-fiction novels, they follow the misadventures of the last surviving human, Arthur Dent, following the demolition of the planet Earth by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space
Harrison Schmitt (Copernicus, £15.99)
Schmitt, geologist and the last of the 12 people to set foot on the Moon, argues that humans need to re-establish themselves as a spacefaring race and return to the moon not only to extract helium-3 for energy production, or as a feat of exploration, but as a business proposition.

The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer
Carol Hill (WW Norton, £18.99)
A rich blend of physics, feminism, and political farce whose heroine is the brilliant physicist Amanda Jaworski in training to be the first person to journey to Mars. With her magic cat, Schrodinger, Amanda goes on the ultimate space odyssey.

Yuri’s Day – The Road to the Stars
Andrew King, Piers Bizony and Peter Hodkinson (Spaced Design Ltd, £14.99)
This graphic novel describes the Soviet space programme leading up to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight on 12 April 1961. Written by Brits, it was condemned in Russia as western propaganda that showed ‘the dark side of Soviet life’.